Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Late Harvest: Pre-Halloween ISDP Edition

It’s been busy here in the drafty shack that serves as FirstNerve Manor on the high plains of Colorado. Mostly we’ve been sampling local IPAs and watching the sales figures surge for our I Smell Dead People T-shirt, which seems to have hit a nerve with Bride of Chucky fans. [And no, Brad Dourif, we’re not going to send you one gratis. Pony up, you cheap f**k! Jennifer Tilly we’ll comp, but that’s a different story.]

With the thirteenth of the month at hand, it’s time to uncork the latest batch of lugubrious ISDP incidents. You know what we’re talking about: those stories that begin with a foul odor and end at the same grim state of corporeal decay. [It never gets old!—Ed.] This pre-Halloween edition is chock-full as the lingering summer heat keeps the relevant bacteria working overtime.

Our first incident combines two great themes of I Smell Dead People. One is the legendary “Body Under the Bed” scenario that inspired our morbid fascination with the entire genre in the first place: in its purest form, a motel guest complains of a bad-smelling room, and the manager discovers a corpse stashed beneath the bed. The second theme is the focus of our insanely popular Norman Bates Award™, given to a person who lives in close quarters with a deceased person, even as said person exhibits the florid and putrescent signs of bodily decay.

So meet Alfred Guerrero, the latest Norman Bates Award™ Nominee and the man who personalized the body-in-the-motel-room routine. A “funky smell” emanating from a room at the Mission Motel in Ontario, California led someone to call the police to investigate. Officers detained long-term motel resident Alfred Guerrero after finding a decomposing body in his room. The remains appear to be those of an acquaintance of his. Guerrero was released without charges after being questioned.

Mixed Doubles

Whitney Gray
Brandon Griswold

A Nashville, Tennessee, couple bludgeons their roommates (another couple) to death, stuffs the bodies into a utility closet, and continues to live in the apartment. The mother of the male victim, who had reported him missing, went to the apartment in search of him. When she “smelled the odor of decomposition” leaking past the door, she called police who discovered the crime scene. Brandon Griswold (20) and his girlfriend Whitney Gray (21) confessed to the murders and were arrested. They are this year’s first dual nominees for the Norman Bates Award™.

Since we’re talking theme and variations, we venture abroad to include an unusual hybrid item from the town of Heerhugowaard in the Netherlands. A local woman let a homeless lady store some personal belongings in her shed. A year later, while rummaging in the shed, the owner notices a foul odor. Searching for the source, she discovered the body of a child, wrapped in plastic. While this qualifies as an ISDP incident, we also wonder whether it might not be something new, a case of Norman Bates by Proxy Syndrome.

Mary Kersting

Finally, 60-year-old Mary Kersting of Gloversville, New York, has pleaded guilty to grand larceny and improper disposal of a body. When her 93-year-old mother died in October, 2013, Kersting kept her body in the apartment below hers while she cashed the old lady’s benefits checks. A police welfare check in December, 2014, discovered the year-old body. Kersting faces six months in jail, but she is also in the running for the 2015 Norman Bates Award™. Congratulations!

Out West

In West Jordan, Utah, a couple of young skateboarders smelled “an extremely foul odor” and successfully followed their noses to the source. They found the badly decomposed body of a 28-year-old man in a utility area near the public library. Evidence suggests his death was the result of a drug overdose.

Someone walking past a camper parked between two abandoned houses in Texarkana, Texas, smelled a “foul odor” coming from it and called police, who found a decomposed male body inside. The body was later identified as that of a 47-year-old homeless man.

Rugged Individualism

A 64-year-old man in Humboldt County, California, is the victim of an attempted home invasion. He fights back with a Gurka knife and the wounded assailant flees with the help of another perp. Two weeks later someone calls the county sheriffs to report a foul odor and deputies discover the decomposed remains of a 32-year-old Sacramento man who may have been the wounded attacker.

It’s not quite “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” but “Texas Woman’s Body Found in Oklahoma Trunk” isn’t bad. A Oklahoma DPS trooper stopped to check out an abandoned car on I-44 near Randlett, in Cotton County. Smelling a foul odor, he opened the trunk where he discovered the body of a 61-year-old woman from Amarillo, Texas. Without impugning the trooper’s olfactory acuity in the least, we are not able to award this incident true ISDP status, as the search was initiated before the officer noticed the smell.

Southern California

Just off the 405 in the North Hills area of Los Angeles neighbors smell a foul odor coming from an apartment and call the police. LAPD finds the decomposing remains of a 23-year-old man who appears to have died from a gunshot to the head.

Neighbors called police about a foul smell coming from parked car in a residential area of San Bernardino, California. Police found a decomposing body in the trunk. The body was later identified as that of the 28-year-old owner of the car, who had been reported missing a few days earlier.

A body discovered in the Angeles National Forest, just north of Glendora, may be that of a man who was digging for gold when torrential rains caused mud slides and fallen trees. He had been missing for about a week, and acquaintances who were searching for him were tracking a “foul odor” when they discovered the remains.

Always Trust Your Nose™

Tenants at a business complex in Santa Fe, New Mexico had been complaining for weeks about a “rancid odor.” One of the properties owners (in what we presume was a search for the source of the stink) lifted the lid on a cistern and discovered a body that police say had been in the water for about two weeks. A lock on the cistern lid appears to have been broken but it is not yet known how the person died.

Last month we referred an incident to the Rules Committee for clarification. In Queens, New York, the body of a 28-year-old woman with stab wounds was found in the trunk of her father’s Nissan. Her boyfriend is still being sought by police in connection with her murder. From accounts at press time, it wasn’t clear whether the car was reported because of a smell, or because police were searching for it. Now we have an answer:
The driver of an NYPD tow truck discovered the Nissan during a rotation tow operation on September 10, police sources said. The victim’s family listed the car as missing when they filed a Missing Persons Report on September 9. A license plate reader in the tow truck spotted the car and the driver alerted the NYPD Missing Persons Unit. Investigators who arrived at the scene were overcome by a foul odor coming from the trunk of the car, police said.
Well, that settles it. Discovery preceded odor, therefore no ISDP.

Breaking News from the World of Science

We’re not sure whether to file this under “No shit, Sherlock” or under “Good to know, Ken.”
The smell of death: evidence that putrescine elicits threat management mechanisms.
Judging from our years of reporting on the topic, we think that the “implicit cognition” mechanisms triggered by the smell of putrescine can be easily overridden by contextual cues (“A dead body? Really? I thought someone was cooking cabbage.”)

Case in point: a woman in Naples, Florida, thought the foul odor in her ceiling might be a dead mouse. She spent $800 on cleaning supplies in an unsuccessful effort to get rid of the smell. Then her apartment manager informed her that her upstairs neighbor had died “quite some time ago.”

Department of Updates

One year ago we reported on an instance of ISDP in Brownsville, Texas, in which a woman and child were found dead. Last month Donald Edward Pierce pleaded guilty to murdering his wife and son and was sentenced to life without parole.

Also last month we posted an ISDP incident in Calaveras County, California, in which a motorist driving through a sparsely populated area noticed a foul odor and called the sheriffs who found a man’s body lying off the road. Soon after, a 71-year-old local woman was arrested in connection with the case and charged with suspicion of murder. [You mean 17-year-old local woman?—Ed.] [No: seventy-one.] Another body was found in the area earlier this year. Stay tuned.

We close with resolution to an ISDP Cold Case File. An 18-year-old man from Woodland Park, Colorado went missing seven years ago. His remains were found two months ago when a local cabin was demolished: he evidently had attempted to enter the cabin via the chimney, gotten stuck, and died. The cabin’s owner told a newspaper that he seldom used the cabin because of its “foul odor.”

A sad story, but a surprisingly common one, as long-time ISDP readers know. For hours of entertainment just type “chimney” into the search box at the top of the page.

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